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Sportsman’s Bet: A review

Sportsman’s Bet
By: Judy Nichols


Sportsman’s Bet
By: Judy Nichols
Ebook: 229 Pages
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Genre:  Mystery
Stars: 5 – Fabulous!
Buy it:   Amazon    Smashwords

Book Description:
Velma Saunders, the meanest woman in Tobias, North Carolina turns up dead in the Town Hall bomb shelter. The only clue to her murderer is a copy of a Nigerian Email scam message. It’s up to British transplant Ian Dodge to find out who hated her enough to kill her. And what made her so mean.

The Review:

I was contacted by the author to review this story.  I gladly accepted: not only did I appreciate the opportunity, but I get the chance to highlight an independent author and a genre that is a personal favorite.   I was given a copy of this book for honest review, and was not compensated for my words or opinion. I have provided links to purchase the book and find the author for your convenience, and do not benefit monetarily from your actions.

Take a butcher’s at the Sportsman’s bet.
It makes little sense doesn’t it? It’s Cockney Rhyming slang – said to have developed in the mid-1800’s in the East End of London, and it’s not certainly known if it was a game, an accident or intentional dialect meant to confuse, distract or deceive outsiders.  What I wasn’t aware of was the continual growth of the slang; its references have modernized along with society.   One of the best examples of rhyming slang in action is in the Austin Powers movie Goldmember – you can youtube the relevant clip.

The slang provides a nice side-note to the presence of the main character, private investigator and narrator and storyteller Ian Dodge.  Ian is a former police officer turned private investigator, twice divorced, with 3 children, a dog and a house he rents while he lives in a trailer in the yard. Ian presents with a wry sense of humor, slightly fastidious in his personal habits and an unerring habit of ‘putting on the accent’ when being charmingly polite to the women he encounters.

As an unwitting and not exactly willing participant in the discovery of a murder victim in the town’s decrepit bomb shelter, Ian is hired by the defense lawyer to find “anyone that could have done the crime” aside from the current suspect.

I admit – I am a fan of mysteries, and have read my share of them. In most of the mysteries I do read, I have not found more than a handful where I was unable to figure out “who did it”.  I was killer at Clue as a kid. This mystery had me stumped. There were far too many possible options, and the majority of the ‘evidence’ that pointed to one person or another was over forty years old.  Add to that a relatively small and insular area, where many people are related through blood or marriage, or even both – and you have a real ‘feel’ for the area in which the story takes place.

The writing is incredibly tight and smooth, each chapter is relatively short and nearly all are dedicated to one little piece of the mystery to be solved.  All of the characters that are introduced are done with just enough detail to be fitting to their importance to the entire plot.  Recurrent characters (as I do believe this is going to be a series of mysteries) are given enough detail to want to know more; from quirks to relevance in the town or area – they all have some endearing quality that fits in both the story and the area.  And once I discovered the “who” in the “whodunit”  all of the hints to the murderer came clear.  That, to me, is the true mastery of a mystery author – enough dissembling and partial reveals of evidence mixed with other superfluous bits to sift through. Done with a flair for smooth and cohesive writing, careful plot construction and a keen sense of humor in the main character make this a book easy to recommend.

Like mysteries? What about stories based in the south? Have a “thing” for a brit? Just want a new read with an author you aren’t familiar with?  This is the book.

About the Author – and where to find her:
Read more of this post

The Wedding Cake Girl – a Review

The Wedding Cake Girl
by Anne Pfeffer

The Wedding Cake Girl
Author: Anne Pfeffer
202 pages
Amazon Digital Services
Genre: YA Contemporary

Buy it at Amazon
Stars : 5

Book Description:
Seventeen-year-old Alexandra spends so much time helping others realize their dreams that she never has time for her own. An expert ocean diver and reluctant maker of wedding cakes, she longs to leave roses and frosting behind to study oceanography. Alex’s mother won’t have it—needy and dependent, Mom can’t run the family wedding cake business on her own.
No matter what Alex does, things only get worse for her. When she saves a man’s life while scuba diving and becomes the local hero, Mom’s angry with Alex for going diving at all. Mom discourages Alex’s new friendship with Jeremy, a fun and insanely wealthy boy who happens to have a secret. Then, Alex’s best friend, Zack, a hunky island guy, starts to take an interest in her as well. The problem is, he’s dating another girl.
As Alex struggles to learn where she stands between her two difficult and confusing Prince Charmings, it occurs to her that maybe what she really needs is a Prince Charming for Mom. If she doesn’t do something fast, they’ll bury her in her “Sue’s Wedding Cakery” apron with a spatula in her hand.
The Wedding Cake Girl features a colorful island setting, dangerous underwater diving adventures, a family of billionaires, and lots and lots of buttercream. The book is Alex’s journey toward not only finding love, but learning how to step forward and take control of her own life, a rite of passage that faces all young readers.

The Review:

I received a copy of this book from the author, for purpose of honest review.  I was not compensated for this review, and conclusions are honestly given and entirely my responsibility. This book review was requested by Freebooksy reviews.

Alex is a soon to be senior in high school, an exceptional science student with dreams of becoming a marine biologist, if being far too involved in managing a very irresponsible and manipulative mother doesn’t derail her dreams.  At almost 18, she has never been off the island; her only escape is scuba diving, an activity her mother despises. Her mother, Sue, has an amazing talent and love for making and decorating wedding cakes, but no skill or willingness to manage her own business; leaving all of the “details” to Alex.

We see Alex “parent” her mother, waking her up, managing the business, baking the cakes, delivering them, and deferring to her mother in all things.  What has been done, that is clear from the start of the novel, is that Alex feels she is the only person who is both willing to, and understands just how much care her mother requires.

While tangled relationships are not easily portrayed or defined, the author has done a fabulous job of creating in Sue, a character that is the example of “what not to do” to your child.  Her fears of being alone have trumped her capabilities, leaning on Alex to such a degree that the child is literally convinced if she doesn’t do all that she has taken on in the home, that they will be homeless, penniless and it will be her fault.  To that end, I was completely unsympathetic and disliked Sue with a near visceral reaction.  Her actions are selfish and her temper hair-trigger, placing her daughter in a position that lying, either directly or by omission, is the far simpler option when attempting to live her life.

You will cheer for Alex’s triumphs, and there is a real sense of ache and loss when things don’t go her way.  And then we hit the one place of the story that I had issues with.  While it’s really a wonderful concept to believe that “deserving” something, and actually achieving it in the real world is often two very different things.  Throughout the story there are little events where Alex “wins” in the battle between her wants and her grasping and controlling mother, but the situations converged in such a “fairy tale” happy ending way that I found it rather unrealistic.  And to that point each character and scene was so realistically crafted and real that I was torn at the end.  Yes, I believe that Alex’s  18 years of struggle were deserving of reward and happiness – perhaps it was a feeling of too much positive and I was left with wanting to know what happened next; when the other shoe would drop.

I have been a YA fan since my daughter was young, and I felt it part of my job as a parent to be aware of what she was interested in reading, and have some ‘forewarning’ about the subjects tackled in the books.  I still read YA with an eye to the “parent” role, being hyper aware of language, sexual situations and characters, as well as writing style and skill.  This is a book I would happily and wholeheartedly recommend to all readers, young or not so young.  While there are several ‘important’ characters, and I have seen fit only to concentrate on the two main players – each character is treated with a deference and detail that defines them as they relate to the whole story with great skill.  The writing was both smooth and tight – I literally read the entire book in one sitting: more because I needed to know what happens next.  There was only one typo that stopped my flow of reading for a moment, otherwise if there were errors – they went unnoticed. Anne Pfeffer has certainly found a niche for her style of storytelling, and there are 2 other titles in this genre available… I suggest you rush to the link and get them !

Willow Pond, A book review

A review for Freebooksy Reviews

Willow Pond
By Carol Tibaldi
Available in EBook and Paperback formats
Publisher: Create Space
ISBN-10: 1468111728
ISBN-13: 978-1468111729
325 Pages
Available at Amazon

Reviewed for 3 Stars

Ebook copy provided by author/review site for purpose of honest review.  I was not compensated for this review in any way, all conclusions are honestly given and entirely my responsibility.

This book is set in 1929 – 1931, centered in the city of New York and the Long Island communities.  I can’t quite determine if this is a romance with a mystery – or a mystery with romance to enhance the drama.  If you are looking for a read that has some romance with your mystery – or mystery with your romance: this is the book for you.  The story is paced well with a good premise, and the characters do work within the story to keep the plot moving forward.

Laura, the heroine, is separated from her movie star husband Phillip, and takes a small apartment in the Greenwich Village area of New York City with her infant son Todd.  On his first extended visitation with his son, Phillip leaves him on his Long Island estate, and heads off on a publicity stunt/junket for his studio, and the child is kidnapped.   We are introduced to the utterly self-centered and selfish attitude of Phillip: his character is never developed beyond that rather wooden stereotype, even with overly vocal attempts by his ex-wife, Laura, to convince us otherwise. Perhaps the “flatness” of Phillip is enhanced by the wonderfully well developed and often surprising voice of Laura. While the story is set in the relatively ‘repressed’ late 1920’s to early 1930’s as compared to this millennium, her attitudes towards sex, illegal actions of her aunt, and her own desire to raise her child alone are all rare attitudes of the time for a “respectable woman”.

We are introduced to her aunt, Virginia Kingsley, a woman who owns a speakeasy, and is busy living the dichotomous life: dealing with Capone-like mobsters and maintaining her “woman of quality” reputation. Again, Laura is her most vehement defender, preferring to accept the omissions of the ‘real story’ from her aunt.  The police that we encounter are all focused on Virginia as a suspect, with her connections to the ‘dark side’ of bootlegging and influence peddling. The police almost to a man  are portrayed as rather simple, bumbling  and ineffective at police work.

Enter the mix, a Pulitzer Award winning journalist Erich Mueller, who is brought in to bring some “public interest’ to the story in the hopes that leads will be generated.  He and Laura are instantly attracted, and he is, with the police, convinced her aunt is more involved in the child’s disappearance than she is willing to admit.

There are several other minor characters that are developed in a two dimensional sense: the less savory characters are wholly greasy without redeeming features.  In the main characters of Phillip, Virginia and Erich; there is not a great deal of complexity in character development that would make a more believable and real person.

I found significant editorial issues in this book in the form of continuity, language appropriate to the time, and some historical inaccuracies.  As for editorial issues, continuity is not maintained with any sort of consistency; there is a near 7 month break in which no explanation is offered, there are conflicts of dates and holidays.  Language in the 1930’s did not utilize words like “Hot” to refer to sexy, or “Catch a Flight” to talk about an airline journey. In fact, commercial airline travel was not common in the United States (and most of Europe) until after this story is said to have taken place.  I do believe that another round with an editor could have resolved these issues.

All that being said – I did give this book 3 stars as an enjoyable read, while it didn’t fully rise to my longed for expectations, the pace and writing did make the story move forward easily.

What Alice Forgot: A review

I’ve been rather out of the loop on new-ish releases in the US. But I heard first about this book from What Alice Forgot: A book review and I was intrigued. I’m fortunate enough to know Dee – so she ‘read it forward’ and sent me the book.  I’m sending it on next week to another person I think will enjoy it, and I hope she chimes in to give her perspective.

What will be most interesting to me is the 3 generations of women who will read and be able to talk about the story, with the different life experiences we all bring.


But, I digress.  This story is essentially a rediscovery of a woman who loses 10 years of her life after a fall in a spin class.  Alice awakes and believes herself to be 29, happily married, pregnant with her first child, an essentially happy and nice person.   What she soon comes to hear is that she is in the middle of a divorce, dating a new man, has 3 children that she doesn’t remember, and she is not a very nice person, who doesn’t appear to like herself all that much.

Reminiscent of Remember Me   by Sophie Kinsella, this is a far more involved and multi-faceted tale.  The story is told using a variety of narratives: we have diary-style entries from her sister Elizabeth,  done as her “homework” for her therapist.  We have Frannie, who is an “adopted grandmother” to Elizabeth and Alice who is writing letters to her love, and then there is Alice’s reactions and viewpoints all integrated with other people’s explanations of her missing memories.

Surprisingly, the story reads far more smoothly than the complexity of the integrated voices would lead you to believe.  It was easy to find empathy for the Alice we meet after the injury; a little lost and slightly bewildered, she is sweet and gentle and perhaps a little too soft and forgiving of bad behaviour from those she loves.  The Alice that went to the gym that morning is far harder edged and direct, petty even, and as she comes to realize what she had become on the long way to 39, she doesn’t like that version of herself.

The story focused on  Alice’s efforts to reclaim her life, rebuild herself, and remember all that she lost in 10 years of memories. The story was written with a slow unfolding of Alice, while we see the worst, and  best, of those around her.  It was an interesting way of examining a life, and learning what is important and relevant, and what will be forgotten in an instant.  What holds  true throughout the story is that Alice’s discoveries are also our discoveries – when she is tense I felt tension.  When she has a realization, we have a similar one.

Books I enjoy always provide me with three things: create characters you care about, provide an interesting story that encourages me to read on and it leaves me with an idea to ponder when closing the last page.  What Alice Forgot provided all those elements for me.  I hope it will for you.